Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Langler, Sir Alfred (1865–1928)

by Anne Porter

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Alfred Langler (1865-1928), by Townsend Duryea

Alfred Langler (1865-1928), by Townsend Duryea

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 16256

Sir Alfred Langler (1865-1928), journalist, was born on 5 May 1865 at Ipplepen, Devon, England, son of William Langler, master carpenter, and his wife Susanna Hext, née Colton. His awkward gait, caused by talipes (clubfoot), precluded Alfred from active occupations and at an early age he joined the literary staff of the Western Daily Mercury, Plymouth, as an apprentice journalist. He later contributed to other journals until he migrated to South Australia where he joined the Adelaide Register early in 1890. On 21 February 1893 he married Josephine Laverton; they had one son and a short-lived daughter.

In July 1895 Langler moved to Perth to become sub-editor on the enlarged West Australian. When J. L. Nanson, the assistant editor and leader-writer, resigned in 1902 Langler, by then the paper's 'sheet anchor', replaced him. Langler's frugal and unequivocal use of language, his general knowledge and his detachment from Australian politics complemented the interests of the owners Charles Harper and (Sir) John Winthrop Hackett who were both active in public affairs. Hackett, the editor, became Langler's friend and confidant. The deaths of Harper in 1912, Hackett in 1916, and of Hackett's executor G. H. Wickham in 1917 resulted in all responsibility devolving upon Langler as sole executor, editor and chairman of directors of the small limited liability company. When probate was declared on Hackett's estate in April 1916 the assets totalled less than the legacies and bequests, but Hackett had stipulated a delay in winding up his estate, giving Langler the opportunity to increase the value of the company, which stood at £93,230 in September 1917.

Langler drove himself and his staff to fulfil Hackett's ambition to endow the University of Western Australia. Wartime restrictions on newsprint necessitated succinct news coverage but allowed a rise in advertising rates. In 1920 the paper's price was raised to twopence. A printers' strike in 1922 left the presses idle for five weeks, but Langler withstood pressure to publish while the men were out. No inkling of the increased value of the company emerged until 1926 when Melbourne interests led by W. S. Robinson and W. L. Baillieu purchased it for about £625,000. Langler became chairman of the board of directors of the new West Australian Newspapers Ltd. The share of the estate to Hackett's family was fixed, and when the residual estate was distributed the university's share was capitalized at £425,000 while the Anglican Church received £140,000 to build St George's College. Langler was knighted in 1927.

Langler's work filled his life. In 1920 he attended the Empire Press conference in Canada. A member of the Weld Club, a justice of the peace, amicable but not very sociable, he progressively became more retiring, eventually returning home as early as 6 p.m. where a junior reporter took the proofs of the leading article to be checked by him. He retired in 1927, suffering from senile dementia, and died of broncho-pneumonia on 26 March 1928. His contribution to the university as executor of Hackett's estate is memorialized in a mosaic in the entrance to Winthrop Hall.

Select Bibliography

  • Truthful Thomas, Through the Spy-Glass (Perth, 1905)
  • F. Alexander, Campus at Crawley (Melb, 1963)
  • P. Hasluck, Mucking About (Melb, 1977)
  • O. K. Battye, ‘Notable men in the company's history No 2: Sir Alfred Langler’
  • Western Australian Newspaper Quarterly, 2, May 1962
  • West Australian, 27 Mar 1928
  • O. K. Battye, History of West Australian newspapers (manuscript, held by author).

Citation details

Anne Porter, 'Langler, Sir Alfred (1865–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/langler-sir-alfred-7029/text12227, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 12 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

Alfred Langler (1865-1928), by Townsend Duryea

Alfred Langler (1865-1928), by Townsend Duryea

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 16256